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Chemically Modified Metal Oxide Nanostructure for Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting


Hydrogen gas is chemical fuel with high energy density, and represents a clean, renewable and carbon-free burning fuel, which has the potential to solve the more and more urgent energy crisis in today's society. Inspired by natural photosynthesis, artificial photosynthesis to generate hydrogen energy has attracted a lot of attentions in the field of chemistry, physics and material. Photoelectrochemical water splitting based on semiconductors represents a green and low cost method to generate hydrogen fuel. However, the current overall efficiency of solar to hydrogen is quite low, due to some intrinsic limitations such as bandgap, diffusion distance, carrier lifetime and photostability of semiconductors. Although nanostructured semiconductors can improve their photoelectrochemical water splitting performance to some extent, by increasing electrolyte accessible area and shortening minority carrier diffusion distance, nanostructure engineering cannot change their intrinsic electronic properties. Recent development in chemically modified nanostructures such as surface catalyst decoration, element doping, plasmonic modification and interfacial hetero-junction design have led to significant advancement in the photoelectrochemical water splitting, by improving surface reaction kinetics and charge separation, transportation and collection efficiency.

In this thesis, I will give a detailed discussion on the chemically modified metal oxide nanostructures for photoelectrocemical hydrogen generation, with a focus on the element doping, hydrogen treatment and catalyst modification. I have demonstrated nitrogen doping on ZnO and Ti doping on hematite can improve their photoelectrochemical performance. In addition, we found hydrogen treatment is a general and effective method to improve the photocatalytic performance, by increasing their carrier desities. Hydrogen treatment has been demonstrated on TiO2, WO3 and BiVO4. In the end, we also used electrochemical catalyt to modify these metal oxide photoelectrode for waste water treatment and chemical fuel generation.

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